The Vikings, Packers and Lions all won their games in week one, while the Chicago Bears lost. So far this season is shaping up pretty much as predicted for the NFC North, with three good teams and one bad one. The division’s record against the rest of the league is 3-1, putting them in a three-way tie with the AFC North and AFC West for the best division in the NFL.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers beat the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team picked by many pundits to take a major step forward with key additions to their defense in free agency and the draft. The Packers did not handle the Jaguars easily by any means, managing a 27-23 win on the road, but a win is a win in the NFL. The Tie Breakers have the Packers second in the NFC North
Evading their pressure with ease as his offensive line failed miserably to protect him, Aaron Rogers made the Jaguars defense look silly at times. Consistently he was able to salvage a broken play, slip between rushers, and find the open man downfield for a completion. Jordy Nelson does not look like he has come all the way back to full fitness, he lacks the burst that he showed prior to his ACL injury at this point. Eddie Lacy had a pretty good day on limited work; his numbers were aided by a big play, but also hampered by a line that had difficulty getting push in the running game.
T. J. Yeldon was unable to find any holes to speak of against the Packers. The defensive line was constantly in the backfield in both the running game and when called upon to rush the passer. Three of the Packers’ top five tacklers were in the secondary, as the team had just as much trouble defending the pass as they had success against the run, allowing 320 yards in the air. Where the team shone was in the linebacking corps, with Clay Matthews and Nick Perry each recording multiple tackles for loss, including one sack each.
The Vikings handled the Titans on the road with a 25-16 victory to their credit. The Titans are a young group that has undergone a lot of change this offseason, with a new head coach in the second season of Marcus Mariota’s career. The Tie Breakers have the Minnesota Vikings first in the NFC North.
Adrian Peterson was stopped in his tracks as the Titans sold out against the run. That is nothing new or different from how teams usually deal with the Vikings offense, as Peterson is the only proven weapon they have, it was simply more successful than usual in this game. Shaun Hill managed a 18/33 performance for 236 yards. To give that context Teddy Bridgewater averaged 18/28 for 202 yards in 2015. The Vikings’ offensive line was unimpressive, but it was often the skill position players failing in their blocking assignments that led to the extremely run focused defensive backs getting to Peterson before he could gain significant yardage. Safety Da’Norris Searcy led the Titans with two tackles for loss and eight solo tackles.
The Vikings’ defense scored the same number of touchdowns that they allowed to the Tennesee offense. Both Eric Kendricks and Danielle Hunter found their way to the end zone for the Vikings, and I would just like to take a moment to thank whoever dropped Kendricks in the DLP fantasy league, I’ll take care of him for you. The defense allowed only a field goal in the second half, and consistently put the offense in field position to be successful. The defensive unit carried this team to victory against what looked like a very bad Titans offense.
The Chicago Bears opened their season in Houston against the Texans, and came up short with a 23-14 loss. The Texans have won the AFC south division three of the last five seasons and have been pencilled in to do so again. The Bears had little to celebrate, losing almost every statistical comparison with their first opponent. Being terrible has the Bears last in the NFC North.
This offense will go as far as the offensive line lets them go. This week they allowed five sacks, and failed to create holes in the running game for Jeremy Langford. Jay Cutler did exactly what he does most of the time, completing just over half of his passes with a touchdown and an interception, though the interception was clearly not his fault. The offense was unable to score a single point in the second half, failing to counter the adjustments made by the Texans defense. Alshon Jeffrey had a great fantasy day, but Cutler was only able to connect with him four times. Kevin White was targeted more often than Jeffrey, but managed only three catches for 34 yards and quit on a route leading to the interception. The Bears managed only 23:41 in time of possession.
The best thing about the Bears’ defense is the inside linebacker duo of Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman, and they definitely showed up for the Bears, combining for 28 total tackles and a sack. Rookie Leonard Floyd also had a nice debut with six tackles and half a sack. The defense managed to pick off Osweiler in the first quarter and set the up an early lead for the team, but the inability of the offense to produce points made the defense’s job nearly impossible. Having been unable to sustain drives, the offense only managed 49 offensive plays. An average offense manages about 65 plays per game. The points total says more about how poor the offense is than how bad the defense is.
The Detroit Lions went on the road and defeated the Indianapolis Colts 39-35. As with almost all of the Lions games, it came down to the last moment, and the final play was one of the oddest I have seen. The Tie Breakers have the Lions third in the NFC North.
Matthew Stafford‘s performance was masterful. His command of the Jim Bob Cooter offense was on full display. Much has been made of Marvin Jones‘ performance, but he is currently on pace for 1360 yards on the season. Of Matthew Stafford’s eight incompletions, six were thrown Jones’ way, which is a legitimate concern. Eric Ebron, Golden Tate, and Anquan Boldin all caught 100% of their targets this week. Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick were both dual-threat backs, Abdullah with 120 total yards, and Riddick with 98. Both backs had five catches on five targets, with a receiving touchdown. Riddick added a nice running touchdown, and rookie Dwayne Washington punched one in on the ground as well. The offensive line dominated the Colts’ injury-plagued front seven all day.
The Lions defense struggled in all aspects of the game. The Colts’ offense were able to arrange match up advantages at will in the second half of the game, with the Lions not adjusting to the Colts’ half time adjustments. Tahir Whitehead led the team in tackles, and passes defended, but was also made to look bad on multiple occasions when left in coverage against Dwayne Allen. On the line, the story of the day was Kerry Hyder‘s two sacks, but those were the only sacks the Lions managed throughout the game, and they managed only five hits on Andrew Luck in total.
In the secondary, Quandre Diggs was picked on, showing that he probably shouldn’t be left to cover Pro Bowl wide receivers in single coverage at this point in his career. That should have been obvious to anyone who has watched a football game. If the Lions cannot figure out how to stop teams from making that happen, it could be a long season for the second year player.
NFC North Summary
It’s a three-way tie at the top of the division and the Lions are in that group. So far the Packers look like a group of superstars carrying their team; the Vikings look like a defense that will keep them in games, while hoping the offense can do enough to win. The Lions look unbalanced in the opposite way, with the offense needing to outscore other teams for the team to win, and the Bears just look bad. That’s the NFC North in a nutshell.
As always I can be found on twitter @A5hcrack, and on /r/detroitlions.